Gila River Day 3

Now that I’m home, I am learning more and more about the Gila River and efforts to protect it as a Wild and Scenic River. Read more here

Now, back to the river!

Day 3:

We didn’t make the miles yesterday that we wanted. We had over 40 miles to go on the trip, and there was the added wildcard of rain and potentially snow in the forecast soon. Our options were to paddle fast and get out before the weather, or slow down and keep on despite the weather. Because some of our crew didn’t have dry suits and were already somewhat cold and wet during the day, we had to consider the dangers of paddling all day in wet clothes and 40 degree temps. So far we had had blissful sun during the day which not only helped moral, but helped keep everyone warm.

So today’s goal would be to get an early start (earlier than noonish), and move down the river. We were on the water by 10:30 (success!!) and doing a bit more paddling all around.

The water levels have continued to drop, and with it the speed of the moving water. But we were making awesome time, and after the first hour in our boats, had already gone 5 miles.

We continued on, and if it was possible for the river canyon to get even more beautiful, it did. We were paddling past more dramatic rock walls, and since we were dropping in elevation every day, the signs of spring seems to intensify over the miles. We also spied caves in the canyon, caves that might have housed people for thousands of years.

We are, as JJ calls it, epicing.

We had lunch on a rocky beach. Oh yeah! It was St. Patrick’s day! As a Patrick I felt it was my duty to pass around some whisky during the break, and we all practiced safe flasking by pouring it into our mouths from a safe distance.

We kept on moving down the river that afternoon, had one tree we needed to limbo (duck down to avoid smashing our face into it) but everyone made it through unscathed.

Mike’s turn at the limbo tree

By the time it started to cloud up, we found a nice big flat to make camp. The rain and cold were due to start the next day. I was carrying an InReach beacon, which offers a way to get a weather report. We checked it and saw the rain was due to start late morning tomorrow. So we did the only logical thing and decided to decide our next move in the morning.

There was a fire to make, and some chillaxing to be done.

Gila Day 2

So google drive decided to lose all the rest of my journal entries from the river last week. BUMMER. Now I have to think again about what happened! 🙂

***

Group photos by Slow Ride

We woke after a nice warm night and waited around until the sun hit our camp to really start moving. A morning fire helped with the motivation, along with multiple cups of coffee.The paddling was really smooth yesterday, and we would find the opposite today!

For all of our effort, we didn’t seem to be moving efficiently down the river. We had a few swims, but all people and gear were recovered, and even though a few folks were shaken up from the cold immersion, we all rallied and kept going.The water at this level kept us busy, and the previous flooding had left tons of strainers in the water. Granted, most of these strainers didn’t span the width of the river, so we were able to paddle by them, however, they could be a real problem if you floated into them wrong.

We saw one other group on the river today, a group of three, each in their own cataraft. Those were ambitious boats because we encountered tons of low-hanging branches that surely resulted in tree branch slaps in the face as those boats sit much higher in the water.

At the end of the day, we rounded a corner to find them portaging a river-wide tree blocking the way, and so we did the same.

We hadn’t made the mileage we had wanted, but our safety and enjoyment were more important, so we pulled up at Sapillo Creek to make camp. This is where (I think) I came down on the CDT five years ago and started walking upstream. I guess we just did a paddle alternate to the hiking route!

We spread out and put on dry clothes. The water in the creek was much cleaner than the Gila, so that would be a good option for filtering, but then we discovered a little waterfall that had even cleaner water. Score!

Then it was time for happy hour on the beach. I passed out cans of Greyhound, a mixed cocktail drink made by a brewery in Bend. We sat on boats and watched the sun go down before retiring to the fire and our dehydrated/freeze-dried meals.

Another warm night, exciting!

Gila River Day 1

I was almost warm enough last night. My thick inflatable bargin sleeping pad was only thick enough if I lay my whole body evenly on the pad…curling into my usual side position dipped my hip to the ground, and that ground sucked the warmth out of me.

When we did finally emerge outside the tents everything was covered in frost and ice. Brrrr. Our friends were warm blooded and were not excited by the frosty morning warning. 

Eventually the sun hit camp, and made the duffle shuffle go a little faster. How would we possibly fit all the food, beer and gear into our little boats? The inflatable kayak folks had a much easier time as they can strap just about anything to the tops of their long boats. We packrafters have to fit it inside our boats, or smartly strapped to the outside. Mike was in the other packraft, and this would be his first overnight trip in his craft. 

Somehow we were packed and almost ready to go when our shuttle driver came and gave us some useful beta on the river (he had just paddled it a few weeks before) but the spike in the river level after the heavy rains of the days before would provide a wild card. Would the flows have lodged some trees across the river? New strainers, log jams or hazard trees? We all got a safety talk from Kirk who has taught, guided, and explored flooded rivers like this for years. We are in good hands with Kirk at the helm.

The water was a chocolate brown, but not thick with dirt and mud. The brunt of the flooding was over and the water levels were going down now. We paddled past cliffs and treed flats, noticing where the water had crested in a much bigger flood. Folks were getting used to their boats, and we had clear sailing for the whole day. 


Numerous cairns marked where a trail crossed the river back and forth, and Slow Ride, Shake n Bake and myself were pretty sure we had hiked some of this on the CDT gila alternate years before…and I could even have sworn that I had a cold wet camp at this very spot 5 years ago on my thru-hike.  I’ll have to go back and check my blog; my camp at this spot ended with a windy sleepless night on the river….I woke to snow and high tailed it to Doc Campbell’s that next morning with promise of a food box and the stellar Gila Hot Springs. 

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Our afternoon at camp consisted of a few lazy hours in the sun in hammocks or laid out horizontal in some fashion. Slow Ride lent me a book about the Gila river, so I read a few pages before closing my eyes too.

Later around the campfire we passed bags of wine and told stories.


The night was clear and blissfully warm.

You Can’t Plan a Pandemic – Gila River Packraft – Day 0

 

It was time for a river adventure. Our friends in Tuscon, Slow Ride and Shake n Bake (two thru hikers I met in 2008 when I was giving trail magic on the PCT near Elk Lake – and who have since become my trail angels numerous times) suggested a Gila River paddle about a year ago, and we’ve been looking forward to it ever since. Add in a global pandemic, the first coronavirus cases found in our communities, paired with a plea for people to isolate themselves, and we knew disappearing into the wilderness for a week was probably the smartest thing we could do. (We started our trip March 12)…

Slow Ride (SR) and Shake n Bake (SB) invited a few friends of theirs on the trip, all teachers in Tucson. Mike, a music teacher, was in a packraft and relatively new to paddling rivers. JJ had been on a few rivers, including our beloved Umpqua River, and was in an IK (inflatable kayak) and had just escaped his science classroom and was ready for a break. Mika, a middle school teacher (and former peace corps volunteer who had stationed in West Africa like me) who was also in an IK and was ready for some down time.

We were all guessing at what kind of world we would encounter after our float…the United States had just started to isolate and quarantine, the lines at Target were still civilized, but we all knew that the thin veneer of human decency can be punctured by panic and fear….both emotions increasing in the collective consciousness by the minute.

To the river!!

Kirk and I had spent two days driving down from Oregon through numerous torrential downpours, and knew the water levels in our wilderness float were bound to go up. Desert rivers don’t always run, so the influx of water would give us a nice push down the river.

The Gila was the first designated Wilderness area in the United States, and is one of the largest. It is truly amazing terrain, and the Continental Divide runs right through it. SR, SB and I had all hiked the CDT and had many memories of fording the Gila River on our treks. They had also hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail, which traverses the area. We were eager to get back and track some of our steps, but from moving water this time. 

There have been numerous efforts to dam this free-flowing river. The pressures of too many people living in the desert with too little water was increasing each year, but so far the dams have been held off. This place is the perfect opportunity for humankind to put a pause on our greed and need to control everything, and just let it be for the animals, plants, for the possibility of a huge tract of rich wilderness that can be left without our imprint. There are actually very few like this…. almost none.

The Gila is also being considered for Wild and Scenic River Designation, which seems an obvious moniker. I will be supporting that designation however I can, although there is a lot of local resistance to this. Read more here, and get involved if you can!

So we made it to Tucson on a Friday. Met for dinner and drinks and nervously joked about the pandemic all around us, and decided to stop all the conjecturing, and try to be in the moment. 

The next day we drove to Silver City New Mexico…on the way admiring the yellow super bloom that had carpeted the desert around the highway…a benefit from all the recent rain.

Kirk and I made a quick stop in Silver City to see Erika, a good friend, and one of my trail crew members from a summer in Durango Colorado 13 years ago. I seem to make it to Silver City every few years, so we’ve been able to stay in touch….the kind of touch that’s easier when you see each other in person every so often.

We met her beau, Cjell, the maker of Moné Bikes, and we got to see him work in his shop…an old van turned into a bike-making-palace.

After lunch and a quick walk around town we headed up the notoriously windy and steep road that takes you into the heart of the Gila Wilderness. On the CDT I encountered this section and stopped at the Gila Hot Springs, got a resupply box at Doc Cambells, and took in the history of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

We all rendezvoused at the Grapevine Campground for our launch in the morning. 

To the river!

I love design

I love making things, especially graphics. Even better? Graphics revolving around my true love: thru-hiking. I had a freelance design business for a while, and while I’m more in the hobby phase now, I’m still creating here and there, mostly for fun. Then when I started the business Hikertrash in 2014, I got to translate some designs into actual products. But really, I just want to make things.

My most recent logo collaboration was launched last week.

Anish is a true badass. She thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes, then wrote a book about it; then I got to hang out with her a bunch when she thru-hiked the Oregon Desert Trail in 2017. Anish returned to the triple crown trails in 2018 and hiked all THREE in one year (called the Calendar Triple Crown), and that trip also meant she had completed the triple triple crown, meaning she had now hiked all three long trails (AT, PCT, CDT) three times each. (I’m not worthy). Anyway, She is a truly lovely human being, and it was great fun to work with her on her logo redesign.


I’ve made logos for some outdoor companies, the most recent was also for a product I’ve been using since the lovely Mandy “Purple Rain” Bland (another fabulous thru-hiker) started her business in 2014, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts:

With a few different versions

My good friend Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa started working for the hat company Crown Trails Headwear after his thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail in 2016, and the business was looking to create a series of designs for the National Parks, so I whipped up some concept designs:

Then when I worked for the lightweight gear company Six Moon Designs a while back, they were looking to brand their ultralight sun umbrella. I was given the name: Silver Shadow, and came up with this (which you can get on any umbrella you order even today!)

 


So the company hikertrash that I started with Brian Frankle (and have since sold to Matt “Boomer” Romero) was great fun, and I made some of my favorite designs to this day for the brand.

I think my favorite product was the first one we made…the original hikertrash trucker hat.

And all of the hikertrash designs were proceeded by my brief business: Bike Bend Wear. I came up with about a bunch of different bike designs, made a series of screenprinting screens, then printed the images on thrift store clothing.


I’ve served on the board of several non-profits in town and had the opportunity to help these new organizations create their brand identity.

The Oregon Outdoor Alliance was first started with a few folks drinking beer around a picnic table, and now is a state-wide organization with a mission to unify and inspire Oregon outdoor industry businesses. I offered to make their logo and first, second, and even third versions of their website (I am NOT a website designer, but can make it look good). Our gatherings around the picnic table turned into the Beer:Thirty events, and I made a logo for that too, which we first printed on Silipints (another Bend company).

While I worked at a local publishing company as the arts magazine editor, I was an early board member of the Arts & Culture Alliance, and made their logo too.

I got really involved with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition before, during, and after my thru-hike in 2015. I was their first trail ambassador that year, and worked closely with Executive Director Teresa Martinez. She loved the hikertrash brand, so I used the font I created for hikertrash for a few logos for the CDTC. All of these ended up on t-shirts and hats!


I have been putting my graphic design skills to work for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and really like these two logos:


Finally I work on logos for friends. Here are a few:

Logo love.

Gear Review: TOAKS Alcohol Stove & TiStand

Stoves have come a long way since I started backpacking…or maybe I’ve come a long way. Regardless, I now have a system that far outshines the whisperlite stove I started with. When thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002 I often started the picnic table on fire when there was too much fuel in the line, finding and filling the bottle with white gas wasn’t too hard, but the weight and hassle (cleaning it…don’t get me started) of it all seems hilarious when I think back on it.

I started using alcohol stoves for my next thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. My homemade beer can stove worked, but this time I started myself and my sleeping bag on fire, had the jb-weld that I used to fuse it together fail on me half way through the trail, and watched the top of my stove pop into the air when it finally failed…I was truly a danger to myself and the forest around me.

Now, I have the TOAKS Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove, and it’s astonishingly easy to use, efficient, safe, lightweight, and yes, I might even say sexy.

Some of the things I love about the TOAKS alcohol stove?

You can turn it off. The big problem with most alcohol stoves is that once you pour the fuel in and light it, you have to wait until the fuel is all burned off to either add more fuel, or put the stove away. You definitely do not want to put a stove in your pack that still has traces of denatured alcohol in it only to have it run over the food in your food bag or over your gear. You REALLY do not want to try and add more fuel to the stove if it’s still lit. Yes, I’ve made that mistake, and yes I burned myself. The TOAKS stove has an open reservoir that you pour the fuel into which includes a barely perceptible double wall design that helps to pressurize the fuel into hot jets of fire so you can cook your meal, but once your water is boiling, or you dinner is ready, you can take the lid from your pot, cover the stove, and extinguish the flame. Once the stove has cooled off a few minutes, you can pour the extra fuel back into your bottle. This alone would make me use the stove, but there are some other very fine features:

It is efficient. I told a friend about this stove last summer, and being the gear-head he is, decided we should do a stove-off and test the TOAKS stove against a few other alcohol stoves on the market (and one of my old homemade versions) to see how they performed. Bill has been using the Trail Design Kojin stove, and the Trail Designs 12-10 stove, and in his words, “The TOAKS kicked my ass for boil time.”

We used 300ml of 50 degree water for each test, One ounce of 190 proof Everclear grain alcohol, and the same pot and windscreen to keep things equal.

The results to a rolling boil were:

TOAKS: 3 m 50 s
Trail Designs Kojin: 4 m 20 s
Trail Designs 12-10: 5 m 20 s
Renee’s homemade stove: big fail

The flame the TOAKS version pumps out is impressive. I was demoing the stove for some folks at the OR Show last summer in front of several gear-jaded hikers, and I was able to knock them out of their trade-show daze by setting the stove alight and boiling some water…to gasps and awes. Yes, it’s powerful.

I even took it on a ski tour trip recently and melted snow for water. I never would have taken an alcohol stove in cold temps when I needed a workhorse of a stove to melt water, boil water, and cook my dinner, but I was able to accomplish all three tasks with fuel to spare.

At .7 oz (20g) it’s incredibly lightweight, and fits into any pot or cup you may want to use. The new TOAKS TiStand Titanium Alcohol Duel Stand and Windscreen far surpasses the previous stand and windscreen they offered. I often will use the 550ml pot with this set-up as it fits just enough water to make a dinner or cup of coffee for one, and most of my trips are solo anyway.

I made a little video about how to put it together and use it:

So in conclusion:

  • It’s light: Stove – .7 oz, TiStand – 2.5 oz, 550ml Pot 2.6 oz, equals a total of 5.8 oz for your entire cook system. (the whisperlite stove ALONE weighs 15.2oz)
  • It’s efficient: 300ml of water boils in under 4 minutes
  • It can turn off: the lid snuffs out the flame
  • It’s sexy: the clean and simple lines and look of titanium are very visually appealing to this designer 🙂
  • It’s affordable: The stove retails at $39.95, the TiStand at $24.95, and the 550ml pot at $33.95

I’ll be using this stove most of the year on the backpacking and packrafting trips I have planned. It’s important to note that in fire restriction conditions you need a stove that can be turned off. This version would not qualify for an actual off-switch even though you can easily extinguish the flame, but above all else, please don’t start a fire with whatever stove you are using. For most conditions this will be my go-to stove.

Brain on Fire

I so enjoy getting up early. For the past, oh, eight years I’ve been going to yoga before work. It started when I was at a purely desk job at the publishing company, and it made sitting in a chair all day in front of a computer bearable. And I think it helps me be more creative.

Over the past year I’ve been using the mornings that I don’t go to yoga to read. I used to flip through internet stuff on those mornings, and inevitably I came away with an incredible overwhelming sense of despair, so instead lately I’ve been reading books and feeding my brain.

I can’t even list all of the wonderful books I’ve been able to read during these mornings, but a recent one, The Traveling Feast by Rick Bass, really helped me grow the list of other books and authors I want to read. And by the way, if you like writing, nature, food, wine, and the company of inspiring people, I highly recommend this book. All his books in fact.

Anyway, The Traveling Feast took me to Barry Lopez, an Oregon author, whom I had never heard of. The foremost travel nature writer??? How did I not know him? I checked Horizon out from the library, and also got a ticket to a reading he is giving next week in Bend. Score! Did I know if I liked his reading? Not yet, but yes. I do.

I’m only a third through Horizon, and this morning his words hit me hard.

Movement and words. Yoga and books. My favorite things right now are a morning routine that is helping me be more creative and is helping to catch my brain on fire.

To books, nature, movement, and contemplation!

More Wild and Scenic Rivers!

So I realized there are 51 waterways along or near the Oregon Desert Trail that don’t have Wild and Scenic designation. So I nominated them all.

Oregon’s Senator Wyden has open nominations for new Wild and Scenic Rivers until January 20. This is historic! What rivers do you want to nominate?? Get it!

Read my submitted 51 river nomination and submit your own today:


51 Rivers That Could Be Wild and Scenic

Owyhee River packrafting

Dear Senator Wyden,

Thank you for your visionary leadership to preserve Oregon’s wild rivers, clean water, and wildlife for the future. I sincerely appreciate this opportunity to help develop legislation to protect my favorite rivers.

For the past four years, I’ve been working to establish the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail, a project of the Oregon Natural Desert Association. Since your announcement of this Wild and Scenic nomination process, I realized that 51 different unprotected rivers, streams, and creeks are found along our immersive desert backpacking route.

In 2016, I hiked and packrafted the entire 750 miles of the Oregon Desert Trail. After six weeks of walking and paddling through the desert from Bend, through the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge; Steens Mountain Wilderness; the Pueblo, Trout Creek, and Oregon Canyon Mountains; to the most dramatic of all of our high desert treasures: the Owyhee Canyonlands, I came to understand firsthand how important these natural water sources are to the health of the desert landscape. These waterways support important intact habitats and sensitive species and are also crucial to that thirsty long-distance backpacker after a 20-mile day of hiking in the sagebrush sea.

Clean water sources are not only important to the safety of hikers, but they support other primitive recreation opportunities across eastern Oregon. Sections of the Oregon Desert Trail can be packrafted, kayaked, or rafted, and paddling these desert rivers presents an incredible opportunity to view the landscape from a different perspective. Much of the Owyhee River is already protected as Wild and Scenic, but the stretch below the dam which continues through dramatic rock formations and past enticing side canyons is also an excellent section to explore from an inflatable packraft. I’ve also paddled the lovely Chewaucan River in the spring snowmelt, enjoying the stately Ponderosa pines and early-blooming balsamroot lining its banks. I believe that rivers are trails too, and I am always on the lookout for other remote paddling experiences along the Oregon Desert Trail.

I would like to advocate for the inclusion of the 51 different unprotected waterways along the Oregon Desert Trail in your upcoming legislation. I nominate these rivers for Wild and Scenic River designation:

1. Chewaucan River
2.  Honey Creek
3.  Little Honey Creek & Tributary
4.  Poison Creek
5.  Deep Creek
6.  Guano Creek
7.  Guano Slough
8.  West Road Gulch
9.  East Road Gulch
10. Rock Creek
11. Dry Creek
12. South Ankle Creek
13. Little Fish Creek
14. Mud Creek
15. Bridge Creek & Big Bridge Creek
16. Riddle Creek
17. Coyote Creek
18. Mann Creek
19. Castle Rock Creek
20. Little McCoy Creek
21. Cottonwood Creek
22. Big Alvord Creek
23. Little Alvord Creek
24. Pike Creek
25. Indian Creek
26. Willow Creek
27. Little Cottonwood Creek
28. Arizona Creek
29. Vanhorn Creek
30. Denio Creek
31. Kings River
32. Big Trout Creek
33. Sage Creek
34. McDermitt & NF McDermitt Creek
35. Willow Creek
36. Little Whitehorse Creek
37. Antelope Creek
38. Fifteen Mile Creek
39. Doolittle Creek
40. Whitehorse Creek
41. Cottonwood Creek
42. Oregon Canyon Creek – East Fork
43. Oregon Canyon Creek & Tributary
44. Indian Creek
45. Rattlesnake Creek
46. Antelope Creek
47. Middle Fork Owyhee River
48. South Fork Carter Creek Tributary
49. Succor Creek
50. Dry Creek
51. Owyhee River

Thank you again for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advocate for desert river protections. On behalf of myself and the hundreds of other hikers and paddlers who explore eastern Oregon each year along the Oregon Desert Trail, I hope you consider these suggestions in your upcoming legislation.

Sincerely,

Renee Patrick
Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator
Oregon Natural Desert Association

 

 

Nominate your favorite waterway in Oregon for Wild and Scenic River designation today!

A Hiker’s Relationship with the Land

I wrote a blog post for Six Moon Designs last month on a very important topic:

A Hiker's Relationship with the Land, by Rennee "She-ra" Patrick

Prepping for my ski of the CDT in 2015 with home-made shoe bindings.

As avid backpackers and hikers, we spend countless days, months, even years of our lives outside. Sleeping under trees, swimming in creeks and lakes, cresting saddles and summiting mountains…it is no understatement that significant portions of our lives are spent away from walls, canned air, and artificial light. That extensive time outside can give you a different perspective on what makes a rewarding and fulfilling life. I often hear, “thru-hiking ruins you for normal life.” Spending five months watching your body transform into a hiking machine at the same time watching the ecosystems change again and again is certainly transformative, and I’m not just talking about the transformation of your calves.

All this time spent in nature works on you…in you. Instead of placing a majority of your self-worth in a 9-5 job and quest for accumulating more things and stuff, we start to value the places our legs can take us, and the determination it took to get up on day 145 to keep hiking and see what’s over that next ridgeline.

So much love for trails…and now the ground beneath

As I hiked year after year, the mountains, rivers, and sunsets did infiltrate my desire to live a “normal life,” but I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the land: the forests and deserts, and bodies of water that make epic treks across the United States possible for dirtbags like me and my friends.

It was after completing the triple crown and a bunch of other trails; after about 10,000 miles hiked and at least 500 days sleeping outside, that I started working for a conservation organization and began paying attention to the land and the people that make our long trails possible. Ok, those things were written into my job description, that’s true, but I was a bit embarrassed that it took a job description to get me thinking about these issues. I had the great fortune to start working to establish the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) for the Oregon Natural Desert Association. My role would be to engage the long-distance hiker in knowing the eastern Oregon landscape in a deeper way during and after their hike through the sagebrush sea; to create opportunities for them to see value in the land and intact habitats enough to join the organization in our work to protect, defend and restore the land they were walking on.

She-ra has her dream job to connect hikers to the conservation issues through the Oregon Desert Trail.

And that’s when I realized I already had a relationship with the land, I felt like the out-of-doors was an extension of the indoors, I knew that the health of the landscape that I walked directly supported the life I wanted to live, but I hadn’t spent any energy thinking about our system of public lands, the land managers out there who are charged with the health and vitality of those places, and the countless organizations and people who live and breath trying to defend our trails and landscapes from degradation, exploitation, destruction and more.

That’s when I got excited to help other hikers engage with our trails, routes, and landscapes in a deeper way. Just who are the local, state, and federal agencies that say what can and can’t happen in these places? Just what do these designations mean when I see a sign on the tree that says “Wilderness Study Area” or “Area of Critical Environmental Concern?” What makes these places special, and how are they different from the next area I will hike through tomorrow? What are the threats to these places, the animals, water, and even the views? And what can I do if I want to get involved?

There is so much to it all. And in Oregon where I’m working on the Oregon Desert Trail, most of the land east of the Cascade Mountains (and Pacific Crest Trail) are public, that means those lands are owned by you and me.

It’s time to start paying attention because as it turns out, there are threats, very real threats to our ability to hike on a long trail and trust that the water in the creek is clean enough to drink. That the animals we enjoy watching along the trail have the habitat they need to survive and thrive. That the people whose job it is to make decisions about what’s best for these places have the money, resources, and our support to do so.

Ask yourself: What is your relationship to the land? Let’s just start with the land underneath your favorite local trail. Who owns it, who manages it, what is it managed for, who are the animals and plants that live there; are any endangered? From what? Is there something you can do if you want to have a say in how this place makes it into the next decade? I bet there is. And then try it out on the next long trail you want to hike. What are the issues there? It’s enlightening, and I’ll admit a bit frightening, to look underneath the hood of your next long-distance trail, but I bet the trail organizations who are tasked with its management and development would be happy to engage you in some of the issues.

Whether we like it or not our chosen life (yes, I’ll say life, because it’s a life-long goal of mine and many of my friends to hike ALL THE TRAILS), is not guaranteed, and if we don’t get involved in what makes these trails possible, who will?

My relationship with the land is evolving; it excites and scares me, but thru-hiking has ruined me for normal life. I want to keep hiking, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Backpacker Radio #53: The Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List

Howdy hikers!

If some of you are looking for some good hiker gifting ideas, I got to share a couple of my favs with Backpacker Radio in their Ultimate Backpacker Holiday Gear Wish List. If you didn’t catch my podcast with them from this summer, head on over and give it a listen.

I have more suggestions that I’ll mention below, but for the podcast I could only pick 2! And preferably from brands that I’m not sponsored by, so I’ll cover a few of those below 🙂

#1 Gortex Socks

Why hike in freezing wet shoes?

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#2 Purple Rain Adventure Skirts

You have to try one of these skirts (dudes love them too). This is how you will feel wearing one of Mandy’s skirts:

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A few other of my favorite things:

TOAKS

This polished long-handled spoon is SO beautiful.

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Six Moon Designs

The Silver Shadow Sun Umbrella is a blessing because sometimes you need to bring your shade with you (it works in rain and snow too).

Wander Woman Pee Rag

Drip drying sucks.

Photo from WanderWomanGear.com

Planetary Designs French Press mug

Life is too short to drink bad coffee. (with a couple other favs: Sawyer’s Mini water filter, and TOAKS woodburning stove)

Food for the Sole

Eat good…so much yum in my tum (on the TOAKS spoon!).

I really love all my gear, and instead of listing it all, head on over to my gear list and check it out!